Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro's office on Tuesday unexpectedly dropped charges against Taryn Blume, a former investigator for the Public Defenders Office who had been accused of posing as a staffer for the DA's Office.
Blume was facing up to two years in prison if she was convicted.
Her trial was scheduled for Tuesday, but the case was dropped after Criminal District Court Judge Tracey Flemings-Davillier refused to allow prosecutors another continuance. It would have been the fourth delay.
"I am very happy with today but also very disappointed, because I wish this could have been dismissed a long time ago," Blume said. "It's been very difficult for me the last two years. It ruined my life a little there."
A top trial prosecutor in Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office was on t…
Prosecutors could still choose to revive the charges against Blume; under state law, they have until early 2018 to do so. Christopher Bowman, a spokesman for Cannizzaro's office, did not respond to requests for comment.
The case against Blume turned on whether she misrepresented herself when she approached police officers working at a Housing Authority of New Orleans complex in 2014.
Blume was working for the Public Defenders Office, which was representing Curtis Hawthorne, accused in the kidnapping and rape of a 22-year-old University of Texas student during Mardi Gras that year.
Already foaming with vitriol, the case of a New Orleans public defense investigator accused …
Hawthorne's lawyers have accused Assistant District Attorney Jason Napoli, the lead prosecutor in the case, of withholding a police log that showed the victim never mentioned that she had been raped when she approached a housing authority cop for help.
Prosecutors have described that charge as "laughable" and accused Blume of telling the officers working at the HANO complex that she worked for the DA in order to get the log in the first place. Napoli went to a special grand jury in December 2014 to secure the indictment against Blume on a charge of impersonating a peace officer.
Michael Magner, who represented Blume on a pro bono basis along with co-counsel Mark Cunningham, said the charge against his client "never had any factual support."
He said the officers working at the Guste complex who were allegedly misled about Blume's identity have conceded that Blume gave them business cards identifying her as an investigator for the Public Defenders Office. The officers were working for the Guste Homes Resident Management Corp.
On Tuesday, Assistant District Attorney David Pipes made a motion to continue Blume's trial, saying defense attorneys had turned over new evidence just a week ago and he needed more time to investigate.
The defense objected, and Flemings-Davillier ruled against another delay. At that point, Cannizzaro's office opted to drop the charges, with the right to reinstate them at a later time.
State law bars lawyers from revealing the identities of victims in rape cases except during …
The Blume prosecution is one of several recent incidents in which the district attorney has butted heads with the office of Orleans Public Defender Derwyn Bunton, who said Tuesday that the case had been "a waste of the court’s resources and a threat" to Blume's livelihood.
"It continues to be an attack on the administration of justice in New Orleans," Bunton said. "While the criminal justice system struggles to handle the most serious crimes in our community, the district attorney used 12 different lawyers in an attempt to convict an innocent 26-year-old social work student for doing her job."
Editor's note: This story was updated Jan. 5 to clarify that the employer of the police officers was the Guste Homes Resident Management Corp. rather than HANO.